Florida seeks to stop trans people changing sex on their driving licence

Trans flag and rainbow LGBTQ+ flag waving on a pole

Trans people in Florida will no longer be allowed to change the sex on their driving licence to reflect their gender identity, according to a memo. 

The move, which adds to the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws sweeping the Sunshine State, was reported by NBC News.

The memo was written by Robert Kynoch, the deputy executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). 

“A driver license is an identification document and, as such, serves a critical role in assisting public and private entities in correctly establishing the identity of a person presenting the licence,” he wrote on Friday (26 January). 

“Permitting an individual to alter his or her licence to reflect an internal sense of gender role or identity, which is neither immutable nor objectively verifiable, undermines the purpose of an identification record and can frustrate the state’s ability to enforce its laws.”

It is unclear how the guidance will work in practice, because Florida still allows trans people to change the sex on their birth certificate – provided they have a letter from their doctor stating they are undergoing gender-affirming treatment.

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It is also not known if trans people in Florida who have already changed the gender marker on their documents would receive a replacement, because, depending on how many of their legal IDs have been altered, it could result in a person’s driving licence and birth certificate showing different genders.

According to Kynoch’s memo, “misrepresenting one’s gender, understood as sex, on a driver licence constitutes fraud” which could carry criminal penalties, including the cancellation of the licence. 

Democrat representative Anna Eskamani criticised the move, claiming on Twitter/X that state agencies were being used as weapons against the transgender community.

“This letter from Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles was shared with me last night. I have contacted the department to confirm its authenticity but based on what I am hearing, computer systems locally are no longer allowing gender to be updated,” she said on Tuesday (30 January). 

“This is another gross example of how every state agency has been weaponised to attack trans people. Shameful.”

And Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, said: “Tens of thousands of people [in the state] have legally updated their gender marker on their driver’s licence or ID. They carefully followed the rules to ensure their identification accurately reflects who they are, and they trusted this process.

“Now, an abrupt policy reversal has thrown their lives into chaos.”

The FLHSMV memo is in line with a bill going through the Florida legislature, which would require someone’s biological sex to appear on their driving licence. It has not yet passed into law.

The American Civil Liberties Union is currently tracking 11 proposed anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Florida, with one aimed at restricting government agencies use of trans people’s correct pronouns

In the first few weeks of 2024 alone, more than 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been tracked across the US, with most of them specifically targeting the transgender community.